Boris Johnson was wrong to say that “everybody” is entitled to extra self-isolation support – Full Fact


22 July 2021

What was claimed

Everybody who’s self-isolating is entitled, in addition to the equivalent of the living wage and statutory sick pay, to help in extreme circumstances from their local councils and also to a £500 payment to help them with self-isolation.

Our verdict

Employees who are self-isolating are entitled to statutory sick pay which is not equivalent to the living wage. Support from councils in extreme circumstances is an alternative, not additional, to the £500 payment, and only available to those on benefits or in hardship.

“So many people across our country are having to survive on just £96 sick pay per week.”

“Mr Speaker he’s quite wrong because everybody who’s self-isolating is entitled, in addition to the equivalent of the living wage and/at statutory sick pay, they’re entitled also to help in extreme circumstances from their local councils and also to a £500 payment to help them with self-isolation.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson suggested that everybody who’s self-isolating due to Covid-19 is entitled to the equivalent of living wage, statutory sick pay, council support in extreme circumstances and a £500 payment.

This is not true.

All employees (with a few exceptions) are entitled to statutory sick pay from their employer of £96.35 a week if they are self-isolating (provided the reason for self-isolating isn’t that they have recently returned from abroad).

But people are not legally entitled to the equivalent of the living wage (£8.91 an hour for over 23s) while they are self-isolating. Although some employers may of course choose to continue to pay them the living wage while they’re off, as if it were sick leave, and this may be a part of their contractual obligations. 

It’s unclear whether Mr Johnson just meant that all employees are entitled to the living wage in general, which is broadly true, except under-23s and apprentices. However, the suggestion that people are entitled to receive the “equivalent” of the living wage while self-isolating, is not.

People on low incomes who receive certain benefits, including self-employed people, can also apply for a £500 support payment from their local council. 

Some of those who do not receive the right benefits to qualify may get a discretionary payment from their council instead. However, this is an alternative to the support payment, not an additional payment.

Nor is “everybody” entitled to it, as the Prime Minister’s comments might have suggested. There is provision for councils to make the £500 payment to people in “extreme circumstances”, but it remains a “discretionary” payment that they are not guaranteed to receive.

We have asked Downing Street to clarify Mr Johnson’s comments but at the time of writing it had not responded.